Chairman, Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE), Parliamentarian, Sunil Handunnetti said the officials of Ceylon electricity Board (CEB) and the Ministry of Power and Renewable Energy were yet to draw up strategies to avoid future power crisis. In an interview with Nation, Handunnetti stated the officials were given an ultimatum of two months to formulate a strategic plan.
Following are exerpts:
Q. The COPE summoned officials of the CEB and the Ministry on March 24. Could you tell us the main reason for summoning the officials?
The committee’s aim was to find out whether the relevant institutions had made any progress pertaining to the islandwide blackout on March 13 and the subsequent power cuts that were implemented until the issues were sorted. We also wanted to know whether they had found the cause behind the incidents and whether they had any solutions to prevent these incidents from happening in the future.
Q. What were the reasons given by the officials for the power outages?
They cited the Norochcholai power plant as the main reason behind the incidents. They pointed out that there were several flaws in the design of the power plant, and they needed to be rectified. The officials are also not sure of the manner in which it functions.
At the same time, they also cited the quality of the transformers in the substations. The officials alleged that those who provided the transformers had not given them instructions on how to maintain them.
We also inquired whether the officials had drawn a plan to address the issues at hand.
Q. Did they have any strategy to address the issues?
Sadly, no. These institutions are yet to draw up their strategic plans to tackle this situation. It is really important that they come up with solutions for this problem because of the extent of the impact the power outages have had on the country. Most importantly a strategy should be deviced by the institutions to ensure that similar incidents do not happen in future.
Q. Did they present to you any strategic plans to that effect?
No, they did not. In fact, we asked them whether they had any plans drawn up if such incidents happen within the next few months. Unfortunately, the response was again negative. But we did make certain suggestions to the officials so that they could adopt them in their planning processes in the future.
For example, an Advanced Level student in one of the leading schools in Colombo had drawn up a plan and scheme to tackle this situation. The student had studies the methods followed in several parts of the world and has developed a plan which could be suitable for Sri Lanka. We suggested that the officials take a look at this plan, meet this student and discuss what could be done.
Such moves would help our power sector a great deal. We need ideas and we need them fast.
Q. Did the COPE give any instructions to the officials?
Yes. We instructed them to draw up the necessary plans quickly and submit to us within a month. Another aspect that we found out was that no audit has been done pertaining to purchasing of power. The Government continues to spend billions to purchase power. It is important therefore, to audit these purchases. This information would give us a clear insight as to why the government opted to purchase power at certain prices without going for cheaper rates. That needs to be done soon to. Therefore, we have instructed them to get the auditing done as soon as possible. We have given the officials two months to prepare all the necessary documents and submit it to the COPE. The rest is up to them.
Q. Did you also discuss or ask on the steps taken to move towards alternate energy sources?
Of course, That is one major aspect of this whole issue. Right now, we are at a crucial situation where one of our major power plants is frequently malfunctioning. On top of that, the hydro power generation is also being affected due to the added load, and now due to dry weather and drying up reservoirs.
The officials assured that they were looking at alternate energy sources and were already working on them. We have requested them to speed up the entire process to make sure we are either prepared to face another power outage, or to avoid such incidents completely.